Last 27 March 2024, our team participated in the Commemoration of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao del Norte. CAB is a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), aimed at ending decades of conflict in the Bangsamoro region. The commemoration prompted us to think deeper about CAB. How was it implemented in the past 10 years? What were its accomplishments, gaps, and challenges? In the intricate landscape of peace negotiations and conflict resolution, the journey towards stability is often marked by milestones and challenges alike. Honorable Mohagher Iqbal’s 2024 Status Report on the CAB encapsulates this nuanced narrative, delineating the accomplishments, gaps, and challenges in the implementation process. Here are our notes and reflections on what we’ve heard.

A. Accomplishments

The comprehensive implementation of the CAB unfolds across three distinct tracks: political, legal, and constitutional, each bearing significant implications for the Bangsamoro region’s trajectory.

1. Political Track (Normalization)

At the forefront of the political track lies the process of normalization, a multifaceted endeavor aimed at recalibrating the socio-political landscape of the region. Central to this effort is the decommissioning of combatants, a visible manifestation of progress. Notably, 26,132 MILF combatants have been profiled and processed, with 4,624 weapons rendered unusable and 6,317 pieces of ammunition surrendered to the International Decommissioning Body (IDB). Moreover, the establishment and operationalization of the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) and the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) underscore a concerted institutional framework for sustainable peacebuilding.

2. Legal Track (Enactment of BOL and Establishment of BARMM)

The legal track heralds the enactment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), ratified with overwhelming support from the Bangsamoro people. This legislative milestone paves the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), embodying a parliamentary form of governance—an emblematic triumph in the CAB’s implementation journey. The expansion of BARMM to encompass 63 barangays in North Cotabato, thus creating eight municipalities, signifies a territorial consolidation conducive to inclusive development.

3. Constitutional Track (Limitations)

Navigating the constitutional realm, the journey towards comprehensive implementation encounters intrinsic complexities. Resolution 433 issued by the Bangsamoro Parliament signals support for Charter Change—a pivotal step towards addressing inherent limitations within the constitutional framework. However, substantive amendments to the 1987 Constitution remain imperative to resolve critical issues such as power sharing, the Sharia Justice System, and delineation of powers vis-a-vis regional governance—a testament to the evolving nature of peacebuilding dynamics.

B. Gaps and Challenges

Amidst the tapestry of achievements, the landscape is interspersed with discernible gaps and formidable challenges, warranting deliberate attention and concerted action.

1. Funding Constraints in Normalization

Foremost among the challenges is the dearth of adequate funds allocated for normalization efforts—a bottleneck impeding the seamless transition of decommissioned combatants into civilian life. Urgent intervention is warranted to expedite the delivery of socio-economic packages tailored to address the multifaceted needs of these individuals, thereby fortifying the foundations of sustainable peace.

2. Imbalanced Implementation of Normalization Annex

A palpable imbalance in the implementation of the Annex on Normalization underscores the imperative for recalibration. Disbandment of private armed groups, expedited camp transformation, and reduction of small arms and light weapons are indispensable prerequisites for fostering a conducive environment for peace and development. Concurrently, the establishment of a professional civilian police force tailored to the unique exigencies of the Bangsamoro region assumes paramount significance.

3. Imperatives of Transitional Justice and Reconciliation

Transcending the realm of structural reforms, the imperatives of transitional justice and reconciliation emerge as quintessential pillars of the peace process. A holistic approach, predicated on redressing historical injustices, addressing human rights violations, and ameliorating land dispossession grievances, is indispensable for fostering a climate of trust and reconciliation—a sine qua non for enduring peace.

Honorable Mohagher Iqbal’s 2024 Status Report on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro delineates a narrative of resilience, progress, and unyielding resolve amidst the intricacies of peacebuilding. It is a testament to the collective aspirations of the Bangsamoro people and the enduring commitment of stakeholders towards forging a future defined by peace, prosperity, and inclusivity.

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